• Justin Campbell

The Basics of Carb Cycling

We've all seen it before... You know... That one friend who decides to undertake a new hobby of diet and exercise in order to change their life around. They set large goals and get themselves prepped by shopping and cooking all their foods in advance.

In the beginning it almost seems like they know exactly what they’re doing. A few weeks go by though and you start taking notice that nothing's really changing anymore. They tell you how perfect their diet’s been and how many hours of cardio they’re doing but the scales just won’t seem to budge anymore.

It's a sad scenario that happens to way too many people.

But why?

It's because of evolutionary adaptations. Throughout the history of man (and women for all of my female readers), we haven't always had a continuous supply of food; think of how the cavemen (and women) lived. Our bodies learned to adapt over time because it was either adapt or die in stone ages.

Today, our bodies are much the same as they were way back then and because of this, they still adapt to anything you throw at it.

... I mean anything!

If you cancel out carbs completely then your body will adapt by starting to use fat as fuel instead of carbs through a process called ketosis. If you eat nothing but protein, your body will adapt by converting that protein into sugars which is called glyconeogenesis and if you decide to eat 500 calories day, then your body will adapt by shutting down the thyroid output, raise your ghrelin levels and cause you to retain all your weight so you don't die.

The body really is an amazing machine.

Now, let’s talk about carb cycling.

Well, carb cycling is the process of consuming more carbs and calories on your high intensity or more active days and consuming less calories and carbs on your inactive days. The reason for this is because when you're more active, you burn more calories and when you're not, you burn less. This also helps to regulate your leptin levels and thyroid output.

Since you're still reading this I'm going to assume you're currently undertaking some kind of diet and training program. If you're not, I apologize but this next section is strictly going to be geared towards the people who exercise regularly.

Now, I'm going to steal some numbers from Matt McGorry (T-Nation) to make your lives a lot easier:


High day

- Carbs: 2-3 grams per lb of body weight

- Protein: 1-1.25 grams per lb

- Fat: as little as possible

Low and moderate days

- Carbs: 0.5-1.5 grams per lb of body weight

- Protein: 1.25-1.5 grams per lb

- Fat: 0.15-0.35 grams per lb


High Day

- Carbs: 0.9-1.0 grams per lb of body weight

- Protein: 0.75 grams per lb of body weight

- Fat: as little as possible

Low and moderate days

- Carbs: 0.2-0.5 grams per lb of body wght

- Protein: 0.9-1.0 grams per lb

- Fat:0.1-0.2 grams per lb

These numbers can all be adjusted to fit your current regime. Whether you're bulking, recomping, or cutting down, this is good guide to follow. Figure out your calories and then use this guide to figure out your typical daily fluctuations. You can resort back to the “RESOURCES” page on THECUT.Fitness for a calorie cheat sheet and food journal to help this process tremendously.

I do recommend fully programming your days and not just winging it but some people will do just fine either way! For those just starting and who are unfamiliar with tracking calories, I leave you with a very corny quote that couldn’t be anymore true:

“Failing to plan is simply, planning to fail.”

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